Steelers' Hines Ward visits Freedom Area to urge students to exercise
Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Hines Ward signs autographs with eighth-grader David Grove and Principal Robert Gallagher at Freedom Area Middle School. David got to spend time with Ward as winner of an NFL contest to encourage exercise.
Students at Freedom Middle School welcome Hines Ward.
Students cheering for Steelers' receiver Hines Ward.
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Waking up at 5 a.m. can be tough for a a teenager, but David Grove, of Freedom, did that Tuesday to make sure he was ready for a chauffeured limousine ride to school.
Riding with him in the long black car was Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Hines Ward.
"It was pretty early, but it was fun," said David, 13, an eighth-grader at Freedom Area Middle School.
Mr. Ward spoke to all 510 students at an 8:10 a.m. assembly and then joined David and the 25 students in his homeroom for a physical education class.
His visit was part of the National Football League's PLAY 60 campaign, which encourages students to get 60 minutes of exercise every day.
Students and staff at the school have David's mother to thank for the visit. She entered the NFL contest online and was selected as one of 31 winners -- one from each NFL market.
"Everyone in our family is a big football fan," Stacey Grove said. "His brother and sister got to ride in the limo, too, and we weren't expecting that."
Mrs. Grove joined Mr. Ward and David for the limo ride along with Jonathan Grove, 8, and Megan Ellis, 2.
"We live in Freedom right behind the school. It actually took us longer to get everyone into the limo than it took to drive to the school," Mrs. Grove said with a chuckle. "They drove us around the block."
David doesn't play football. "I'm a bowler," he explained. But he has two Hines Ward football jerseys and one with No. 10 -- Santonio Holmes.
"Hines Ward was really genuine and nice, and he was smiling the whole time," Mrs. Grove said. "During the question-and-answer session, one of the kids asked how he could smile when he gets up after being tackled. He said he feels so blessed, so he smiles all the time."
Principal Robert Gallagher said students "were all ears" during the assembly. "I had a chance to talk to Hines Ward before the assembly, and he is a true gentleman. He had that smile on his face the whole time. He talked about PLAY 60, and after that he answered many questions from students. He was very patient. He seemed to enjoy the questions."
Video and computer games can lure students toward an inactive lifestyle, Mr. Gallagher said. The get-outside-and-move message has greater impact coming from Hines Ward than it would have coming from parents and teachers, he suggested. "No doubt this could help."
The middle school has three physical education teachers and daily health and physical eduction classes, the principal said.
Dressed in a Steelers jersey, jeans and athletic shoes, Mr. Ward participated in a PE class with David and his homeroom classmates.
"There were five work stations set up in the gym and the students were split into groups of five," Mr. Gallagher said. "David was in the Hines Ward group."
The 30-minute workout included an obstacle course, relay races while carrying a football and an activity that involved throwing footballs through rings from different distances.
"Hines Ward was very good at that," Mr. Gallagher said. "You can tell he's a former quarterback."
Before the football star left, students gave him a red Freedom Area Bulldogs hooded sweatshirt.
The NFL and JCPenney will make donations to the schools that win the contest to support their in-school and after-school fitness programs. Wilson Sporting Goods, the company that makes the official footballs of the NFL, also will donate equipment.
First Published October 29, 2009 12:00 am